WIA discusses integrating wind energy
Cheyenne – “Renewables are variable – they’re up and down, and because of that, we need to integrate renewables,” said Richard Lauckhart, Managing Director of Black and Veatch, at the Nov. 9 gathering of the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority in Cheyenne.
In Lauckhart’s opinion, the best way to integrate variable wind energy into the system is to use gas-fired generation to balance it out.
“There are other technologies that could be used, but we most often talk about gas-fired resources these days,” he said. “In large part, because gas is very cheap.”
In the realm of renewable energy, Lauckhart said economics are important in Wyoming’s case to win the business of those seeking renewables, especially California. “There are other places, and other technologies – primarily solar. You have to demonstrate you can compete economically with them,” he said.
“Significant generation will need to be built, and much will be gas-fired. The question is where those units will be located,” said Lauckhart of the resource-planning standpoint.
“From a fundamental standpoint, Wyoming has coal generation that exceeds the load. In addition, you have about 1,400 megawatts of wind that exists today, plus some hydropower and a small amount of gas and oil,” he outlined. “You’re building the coal to export, and you’ve built about 5,000 megawatts of transmission lines that you use today to export your coal.”
“When the load is peaking, and all your generation is running full out, you won’t have a problem, because you have enough export capacity to accommodate what you don’t need. But, the load isn’t always peaking, so we’ve done some analysis that shows that, in 2011, with the power you have, no new transmission or generation will be needed. You won’t run into congestion getting your power out of Wyoming. you’ve built a system today that seems to work,” he said.
He said the question comes when an additional 1,400 megawatts of wind energy generation is added, as well as other projects being pursued. He added that some say there are close to 25,000 megawatts of wind that could be economically built in Wyoming.
“What will happen if you build 10,000 megawatts of wind? You’ve already got 1,600 megawatts with applications pending, and 7,800 in proposed projects. People will want to build those, and everyone recognizes we won’t have the load in Wyoming to absorb it,” he noted. “We can cut back on coal to absorb it, but that’s not the goal here, so we talk about building transmission lines to move it someplace else.”
Lauckhart said that it can be demonstrated that the cost of building transmission and developing wind in Wyoming is cheaper than building solar projects in California – today’s main market for renewables.
With transmission comes the need to integrate wind. “There’s some balancing authority that has to take this into its system and match the loads and resources at all times,” said Lauckhart. “The wind is volatile, and they need something to move around and balance it out. There are rules as to how close they have to stay in balance at all times.”
There are two balancing authorities in Wyoming, and Lauckhart said it’s possible to work with them as the balancing service. “You’ve got a lot of coal, which is not designed to balance wind. Most existing authorities might agree to work for you, but it will be expensive and they’ll have to build resources. There are places across the west where wind is not being built because nobody will provide balancing at a reasonable cost.”
“You could also remotely put Wyoming wind into the California balancing authority, which provides services now to many wind projects at a good cost, but the question is how much more they can absorb,” he said.
Another option is to form a new balancing authority and build gas-fired generation, either in Wyoming or California, to accompany it.
“If we build the entire 10,000 megawatts of wind in Wyoming that’s currently being pursued, you can’t do that without building transmission. If you build enough transmission to cover the wind, you could build a gas plant in Wyoming, and when the wind doesn’t blow you could run the gas plant and ship that energy to California,” he proposed.
Lauckhart said California would rather build the gas-fired plants on their end of the line, for the jobs and their economy, but he pointed out its similar to the entire renewables issue, in that it can be done cheaper in Wyoming.
“A workable future is that you can build enough transmission to accommodate the 10,000 megawatts of wind in Wyoming, and when you do that, the gas can be located at either end of the line. If you want it to be in Wyoming, you have to demonstrate to those who need it that you can do it cheaper and more cost-effectively than they can do it themselves,” he stated.
He said another workable option would be to build some transmission, but not enough to cover the generation, and sell the remainder as energy credits.
“I also suggest if Wyoming has trouble with balancing authority issues, to come up with your own projects with wind and transmission, and get an existing entity to do it for you, or do it yourself. It’s a difficult process, but none of this is the easy way,” said Lauckhart. “It’s a challenge, and I believe there’s an opportunity.”
One of the strongest reasons to build the gas-fired generation in Wyoming is because this is where the gas originates. “If they build the gas-fired generation in California, you have to deliver the gas. You can build the pipeline for the gas or the transmission line for electricity,” he said.
“If only 10,000 megawatts of wind is built in Wyoming, new transmission lines will be necessary, even under our renewable energy credit world. In addition, we’ll need more gas-fired flexible units to integrate it, and they could be located at either end,” he concluded.
Christy Martinez is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.